In this relaunch of his 2007 book, “3:16: The Numbers of Hope,” Max Lucado returned to this well-known-loved-quoted passage of scripture from the book of John:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.
The very root of our heart problem started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin and death entered His perfect world. Lucado unpacked what Jesus meant when He said these words to a member of the Jewish ruling council, Nicodemus. Lucado translated the Greek language at times to share further insight into these 26 words that have become so familiar.
In John 3: 1-21, the Bible said Nicodemus went to talk with Jesus under cover of night. He said,
2 … “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus repeated his reply and added in John 3:6-8,
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus had believed that our best efforts and hard work for God would help one gain access to the kingdom of Heaven. Now Jesus was telling him he must be born again, and that sounded impossible. Using the example of childbirth, Lucado said the infant offers nothing to the mother during physical birth; the mother does all the heavy lifting. Similarly, our Heavenly Father who created us doesn’t need our assistance to spiritual recreate us.
Jesus went on to explain this rescue plan using a historical account from the Torah.
Before Moses led the people into the promised land, he heard their complaints against God about how tired they were of manna. God sent fiery serpents, killing several people, and they cried out for Moses to ask God to save them. God told Moses to lift up the bronze serpent before the people. The people who looked on it would not perish. That passage became prophetic. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3: 14-15:
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Nicodemus would have known that reference and understood the prophecy Jesus would fulfill. Lucado said that Jesus didn’t just do a heart transplant. He swapped hearts with believers. He paid the price as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. Jesus chose the word “whoever,” not a select few, Lucado said. He wants all of us to come to repentance and accept this gift of salvation.
The problem though is not everyone will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. People think there has to be more to it than just believing what Jesus said.
And then there’s people like the man Lucado met on an airplane who had this to say about John 3:16:
“That’s the craziest claim I’ve ever heard, a man once told me. He and I shared a row and a meal on an airplane. But we did not share an appreciation for John 3:16.
“I don’t need God to give anyone for me,” he claimed. “I’ve led a good life. Held a good job. People respect me. My wife loves me. I don’t need God to give me His son.”
The man didn’t believe we have this universal heart problem. Jesus told Nicodemus that we humans love darkness more than light. We don’t want our evil deeds exposed.
Lucado spoke too about those who think all religions lead to the same God. He used the example of booking air travel. Just because all flights go somewhere, all flights don’t go to the same location. Not all religions agree on one God, a one and only Son, Jesus Christ, or about the heaven and hell. Most contradict each other. They can’t all be right, and they’re not all the same.
Christ asks us to trust Him, believe in Him, turn our lives over to Him. He will do the rest.
Last year, I reviewed Louie Giglio’s “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table” based on a very well-known passage of scripture, Psalm 23. It seemed fitting to start the new year revisiting another well-known passage of scripture, John 3:16. Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson for this free draft e-copy of “3:16: The Numbers of Hope.” The scripture promises Lucado shared were a balm to my heart, especially the parts about what Heaven might be like.
I’ve always loved Lucado’s writing style — it’s a sermon style. He did not talk down to the reader and used examples and stories that made this book easy to read and remember later. He used rhyme, alliteration, and puns in ways that helped me remember the main points in each chapter. And he answered debate questions people have about this passage of scripture. This book would make a great gift for new and seasoned Christians. This relaunched book became available for purchase here and here as of Feb. 1, 2022. #316 #NetGalley